They have just given their playoffs qualification hopes a lift and Rajasthan Royals will look to sustain the momentum against Kolkata Knight Riders in another must-win IPL game on Sunday.
Besides a victory in their last league game, the inaugural edition winners will also need other results to go their way if they are to make the playoffs of the lucrative event, in its 13th edition now.
The best-case scenario for RR would be Kings XI Punjab losing their last match and Sunrisers Hyderabad winning no more than one in their last two outings.
In that case, RR will go through with 14 points, without net run rate coming into play.
However, RR’s first task is to do what is within its control — win the match against the Knight Riders and then hope for the best. Given the tight situation, the bigger the margin of win, the better it will be for the Steve Smith-led side.
The Royals can certainly look forward to their batting at the Dubai International Stadium. Their talismanic England all-rounder Ben Stokes has just won a Man-of-the-Match award, having made a breezy half century after picking up two wickets, in the team’s win over Kings XI Punjab on Friday.
The 2019 World Cup final hero getting his mojo back, at such a crucial juncture of the tournament, is great news for the Royals. And, needless to say, a bad one for KKR as the leading all-rounder can singlehandedly influence the outcome of a game.
Sanju Samson rediscovering his touch must have also gladdened the hearts of the RR team management. The wicketkeeper-batsman had started the tournament on an explosive note before going off the rails midway, only to come back all guns blazing against KXIP.
Skipper Smith can play according to the situation and opener Robin Uthappa can put any attack to the sword on his day.
No opposition takes Jos Buttler lightly and then there is Rahul Tewatia and young Riyan Parag down the order, beefing up RR’s batting.
Jofra Archer has been the standout performer with the ball and he will again shoulder RR’s responsibility in bowling.
While they have as many points as RR and KXIP, KKR’s road to the playoffs looks the toughest, thanks to their abysmal net run rate. Their only chance of qualification is if they beat Royals and finish on 14 points, with none of the other contenders reaching that tally. That seems improbable, the last two successive losses badly hurting their prospects.
Nevertheless, the likes of Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, captain Eoin Morgan in batting and Varun Chakravarthy, Pat Cummins and Kamlesh Nagarkoti with ball would like to give it their all.
Do-or-die game for KXIP, CSK play for pride
Their play-off chances hanging in balance, Kings XI Punjab will leave no stone unturned as they take on Chennai Super Kings in a must-win Indian Premier League game here on Sunday.
KXIP’s chances of a top four finish took a serious hit after Rajasthan Royals handed them a seven-wicket loss, snapping their impressive five match-winning streak.
The defeat means KXIP’s fate is not solely in their hands as even a win against CSK will not ensure them a play-off spot. The Punjab outfit will need other results to go their way.
If Sunrisers Hyderabad (10 points from 12 games) win both their remaining matches and the loser of the Delhi Capitals (14) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (14) game finishes higher on the points table — either in terms of points or by virtue of a superior net run rate — than KXIP, then KL Rahul and his men will not qualify.
However, if Sunrisers are beaten in any match, then KXIP, who are currently placed fourth with 12 points from 13 outings with a net run rate of -0.133, will have a good chance of qualifying provided they win against CSK on Sunday.
On the other hand, CSK, already out of the reckoning for the first time ever, will aim to end their dismal campaign on a positive note.
The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team, languishing at the bottom of the points table, head in to the clash after notching up back-to-back wins over RCB and Kolkata Knight Riders.
With skipper Rahul, the leading run-scorer of the tournament, and the flamboyant Chris Gayle coming good and the marauding Nicholas Pooran to follow at No 4, KXIP will fancy their chances at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
It remains to be seen if Mayank Agarwal, who has missed three games, returns to the side.
KXIP’s bowling has been instrumental in their recent wins. However, against the Royals they leaked runs and were unable to pick wickets and skipper Rahul will hope his bowlers will be on top of their game against a CSK side, which cruised to a 10-wicket win in their previous meeting.
For CSK, 23-year-old Ruturaj Gaikwad has shown a lot of spark, notching up back-to-back fifties to set up the wins against RCB and KKR.
Ravindra Jadeja has been in fantastic form, smashing boundaries and sixes towards the end of the innings.
The CSK bowling unit, boosted by the inclusion of New Zealand spinner Mitchell Santer, has done well in the previous two outings and will look to keep the momentum going.
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